K186 Nen by Nakahara Nantenbō 中原南天棒

[Buddha] Snow Mountains six
[Daruma] Shōrin nine

The 77-year old fellow Nantenbō Tōjū

Nakahara Nantenbō (中原南天棒, 1839-1925)
K186 hanging scroll, sumi on paper 132.3 cm × 32.6 cm.


The large character in the center is nen, meaning “year” or “years.” Shakyamuni Buddha spent six years in the Himalayas seeking enlightenment; Bodhidharma passed nine years meditating in his cave at Shōrinji. In our practice, we must transcend notions of time or deadlines, and let things unfold, let them ripen, naturally. Another interpretation of the inscription could be: “Buddha took six years in India, Bodhidharma took nine years in China, so how long will it take you to reach enlightenment here!”